COVID-19-induced uncertainty continues to drag on emerging East Asian bonds: ADB

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The COVID-19 pandemic continues to drag on local currency bond markets in emerging East Asia as investment sentiment globally and in the region wane and containment measures limit economic activity, said the latest issue of the Asian Development Bank's (ADB) Asia Bond Monitor released on Thursday.

"Governments and central banks in the region have taken significant measures to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 through fiscal stimulus packages and eased monetary policies. But more needs to be done to strengthen the region's economies and financial markets," ADB Chief Economist Yasuyuki Sawada said in a statement.

"While overall investment sentiment is still down, there are signs of recovery in some economies as quarantine measures are strategically relaxed," Sawada added.

Emerging East Asia is comprised of China, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

According to the report, government bond yields trended downwards in most regional markets between Feb. 28 and May 29 this year, while equity markets in emerging East Asia suffered losses and local currencies depreciated against the U.S. dollar.

It warns that risks to the global outlook remain heavily tilted to the downside, mainly due to the uncertainty brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the prospect of longer periods of minimal economic activity and further waves of outbreaks. Other risk factors include trade tensions between China and the United States, as well as financial volatility due to capital outflows from emerging markets.

The report said local currency bonds outstanding in emerging East Asia totaled 16.3 trillion U.S. dollars at the end of March, up 4.2 percent from December 2019 and 14 percent higher than in March 2019.

It said bond issuance in the region reached 1.7 trillion U.S. dollars in the first quarter of 2020, up 19.7 percent from the fourth quarter of 2019. Emerging East Asia's local currency bonds outstanding as a share of the GDP rose to 87.8 percent at the end of March, added the report.

The report further said that government bonds outstanding rose to 9.9 trillion U.S. dollars at the end of March, while corporate bonds reached 6.4 trillion U.S. dollars.

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